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Reportage. The French president has great ambitions for the revival of Europe, starting with a six-point plan that tackles the continents most pressing issues and challenges the U.S. and China.

Macron is Europe’s new ‘happy Sisyphus’

Emmanuel Macron, in the role of a “happy Sisyphus,” has decided to climb Mount Europe. At the Paris-Sorbonne University on Tuesday, he presented in front of a student audience (while outside a few dozen protested) an ambitious project of renewal and a reboot of the E.U., a 10-year plan for a “sovereign,” “united” and “democratic” Europe.

His six-point global program ranges from common defense to common migrant policies (with common asylum procedures), to a foreign policy focused on development aid, environmental protection, investment in the digital environment and a budget for the eurozone (but also more Erasmus for young people).

Macron is offering a point of reference for the coming years in which each country, each at its own pace, will contribute to making the E.U. competitive with the U.S. and China, leaving the possibility for Europe of “several formats.” This is an ambitious new “idea of ​​Europe,” which in the past has triumphed above the ruins of war, and which is now indispensable to defeat the currents of nationalism and protectionist populism, in order to avoid any follow ups to Brexit.

Forty-eight hours after the German vote, Macron turned to Germany first and foremost. In the hope of influencing Angela Merkel’s difficult choices. France proposes to head the move forward, in a coordinated manner, on innovation on corporate taxes, precisely on the day that Alstom (the manufacturer of France’s TGV high-speed trains) was acquired by Siemens. (On Wednesday at the Franco-Italian summit, the issue of the acquisition Fincantieri-Chantiers de l’Atlantique was to be discussed.)

To its partners, Macron presents the prospect of a new E.U. treaty, leaving behind today’s “weak, slow and ineffective” Europe, which the citizens have turned against, to prefigure an international defense power capable of responding to the challenges of these times, which are global (terrorism, climate, migration, employment, cultural exchanges).

Macron spoke for more than an hour and a half, but it was not just rhetoric. The general framework has been translated into a number of concrete measures, summarized in some key points. Macron has put “security” in the foreground in order to reach “a common strategic culture” with a “common force of action,” the creation of a European intelligence academy, a mutual exchange of military personnel in their respective armies (all in a short timeframe, by 2020). A progressive convergence on migration, “a long-lasting crisis” due to “inequalities caused by globalization”; protection of external borders, common asylum policies, but also solidarity with the countries of origin (financial transaction tax).

For the defense of the environment, Macron proposes that Europe become the leader of new productions, starting with the clean car. Heading up the project would be a European innovation agency to fund research, particularly in the digital realm, as one of the main keys to European sovereignty. Europe as an economic power must be able to impose a carbon tax on entry into the European market and a single digital market, which also includes the taxation of multinationals in this industry, who presently avoid it through tax optimization.

Macron has many ambitions for the eurozone, the “heart” of the integrated Europe. Germany does not want to talk about the mutualization of past debts, especially now that an alliance between Merkel and the FDP lib-dems looks feasible. To that Macron replies: “I have no red lines, I have only horizons.” That is, let’s look to the future; we are laying the foundations for a common eurozone budget for a convergence and stability of economic policies, which will also be beneficial for youth employment. (“One in five youths is unemployed in Europe, a generation of young people destined for unemployment.”)

Macron proposes a method for fiscal convergence, to defeat dumping: establishing a range of tax rates, a condition to be respected in order to be able to access European aid.

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